It’s the evening of July 19, 2020. As I write this post, the Dodgers are playing the Arizona Diamondbacks in Dodger Stadium. Major League Baseball is kicking off the modified 2020 season this week. There are three spring training games scheduled for the Dodgers: The Diamondbacks back-to-back and one game against the Angels. Then Thursday, the season kicks off against the San Francisco Giants. But the familiar opponent is about the only thing that will be like any other year.
162 games between the first week of April and the first week of October. That’s how the baseball season usually runs. The All-star game would have taken place at Dodger Stadium on July 14 but like so many other things this year, it did not happen. Instead, 2020 brings us a shortened 60-game season. All 60 games will be against teams of the National and American League western divisions. The players will have to follow several new health rules but the most noticeable difference will be in the stadium stands.
As cities across the nation continue to see spikes in coronavirus cases, it would be impossible to pack Dodger Stadium with people. The Dodgers, and all other Major League teams, will play in empty stadiums. This will be strange for everybody and we will all have to adjust.
For one, the broadcasting will be different this season. Broadcast crews will call every game, including road games, from their home stadium booth. SportsNet LA’s Joe Davis and Orel Hershiser will call Dodgers road games as they watch a live feed on a single monitor with no control over the views. That means play-by-play announcers will be calling games much like they did when developing their skills before getting the major league call-up.
Broadcasting aside, how will the experience change for the fans? It’s safe to say that unless you’re a Rays fan, it will be disconcerting to see an empty stadium and hear almost no crowd noise. To fight the noise issue, the Dodgers will pump recorded crowd noise through the stadium in an effort to drown out the silence.
If the noise is designed to trick your ears, there must be a visual trick to go along with it, right? Yes, there is. For $149 or $299 depending on seating area, you will have the opportunity to get your face plastered on one of the empty seats in the stadium. It will be like you’re there! Okay, maybe not. But in a world where Zoom calls have replaced business meetings and family get-togethers, fan cutouts may just become the closest thing to a real fan-team connection in the long year that is 2020. Now, play ball!